It is no secret that one of the common cons that can come with braces is discomfort and pain — especially during the initial installation and subsequent wire tightenings. However, if braces prove to be too painful for you, even after following pain management techniques, talk to your orthodontist about Invisalign to see if this clear aligner is a better fit for your orthodontic needs. While some may be able to tolerate the discomfort more than others, everyone can benefit from learning the following tips to manage pain associated with wearing braces.
1. Orthodontics Wax
Orthodontic wax protects the inside of the mouth and prevents the braces from rubbing on the gums and cheeks. Traditionally, an orthodontist will automatically provide their patients with orthodontic wax, but if not, it should be easy to obtain upon request. To apply the wax, patients will want to first wash their hands. They will then brush their teeth and focus more on the area where the wax will be applied. Next, pinch off a small piece of the wax and roll it around between their fingers until it is soft and malleable. Proceed by gently pushing the wax against the area of braces that is causing the problems.
Patients can still brush their teeth twice a day with wax on but will want to be careful in the areas where it is applied. The wax will start to break away on its own, so there is no need to worry about finding a way to remove it before then.
2. Oral Anesthetics
Oral anesthetics, like Orajel and other brands of Benzocaine, are often used to mitigate pain from braces. Most oral anesthetics are offered over the counter and are applied directly to the pained area (i.e. tooth, cheek, gum). These anesthetics can be purchased at most drug stores, grocery outlets, and pharmacies.
The numbness caused by the anesthetic typically only lasts for 20-30 minutes. Adults and children ages 2 and over can apply Orajel up to four times a day, or as directed by their orthodontist/dentist. Apply using a cotton swab or your finger.
3. Pain Medication
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication can help alleviate discomfort from braces. Because an orthodontist appointment is important and one that shouldn’t be missed, skipping an appointment to avoid dealing with the pain from tightening your braces is not recommended. Patients can take pain medication prior to their appointment to be prepared for their routine tightening. Some OTC pain medication that can help relieve braces pain include:
Inflammation is a common side effect of braces. Applying ice to the area that is causing pain can reduce the inflammation and temporarily numb the area. Hold an ice pack to the area for 20 minutes or until it is numb, and repeat as needed. Other cold items like ice water and iced foods (popsicles, ice cream, etc.) could also be used to numb away braces pain for temporary relief.
5. Salt Water
Rinsing your mouth/gargling with salt water can help remove bacteria from cuts on the gums and cheeks caused by braces. It is important to remove bacteria from your mouth, especially from your braces, to prevent plaque and tartar build-up. Add about a half-teaspoon of salt per eight ounces of warm water and gargle/swish for 30 seconds and repeat until the saltwater solution is gone.
6. Soft Food
To prevent further pain after the installation of braces, it is commonly suggested to eat soft foods for a while. Some great soft foods to eat while wearing braces are:
- Cottage cheese;
- Ice cream/frozen yogurt;
- Scrambled eggs;
- Soft fruits and steamed vegetables like grapefruits, kiwis, tangerines, steamed broccoli, and mashed potatoes;
7. Gum Massage
A self-performed gum massage can be conducted by taking the index fingers on both hands and placing them firmly against the gums and moving them in a circular motion for 5 to 10 minutes. This can help promote blood flow to the area in pain and even help remove any leftover food debris that is stuck in the gums.
Just like with ice, adding heat to the pained area can help reduce the pain and/or swelling caused by braces. This can be done by purchasing a heating pad, a warm washcloth, swishing with warm water, or even a warm adhesive patch.
9. Dental Hygiene
The better you take care of your teeth and gums, the better odds of you have of reduced pain throughout your time wearing braces. The benefits of proper hygiene include the reduction of inflammation, as well as plaque and tartar build-up, which can be painful. Proper dental hygiene techniques include:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day (or after every meal while wearing braces);
- Using a fluoride toothpaste;
- Flossing at least once a day;
- Rinsing with mouthwash after brushing your teeth;
- Avoiding eating/drinking sugary foods and beverages;
- Avoiding tobacco products;
- Scheduling routine checkups with your dentist.
Proper dental hygiene not only can help with pain caused by braces, but it also bridges the gap between oral health and overall health in general.
One of the most important points to consider is that the pain should go away over time. The pain or discomfort generally happens when you first get braces and when they get tightened. If you continue to notice pain, or if it gets worse, schedule a consultation with your orthodontist to make sure there isn’t an underlying dental problem.